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Massachusetts Court-Style Map

by: BostonPatriot

Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 19:21:29 PM EST


I've had a couple of requests to draw a court-style map of Massachusetts, now that DRA has 2010 partisan data out. So I decided to take a crack at it, and it turned out to be a little tougher than I thought. One of the great things about Massachusetts is how parochial it is: people identify by what general region of the state they're from, but also feel strong ties to their smaller, specific regions (often just a few towns), and above all, to their town itself. The parochial nature of the state also makes redistricting a headache, since every cluster of like-minded towns wants to be together, and no one wants to be lumped in with that city that's nothing like our nice little town here. Of course, people here are pretty darned opinionated too, so you'll hear it from the townies if they think they're getting screwed. Also, it doesn't help that the state doesn't divide into 9 pieces particularly well.

But with all that said, here were my basic guidelines:
1. Metro Boston is about half of the state (perhaps a little more or less, depending where you draw the line on what's in the Boston orbit.) That means 4 of the 9 districts should be decidedly outside the Boston suburbs, 4 should be decidedly within, and the final one should straddle the exurban line.

2. The state's four primary outlying regions--Western Mass, Central Mass, the Merrimack Valley, and Southeastern Mass--should each occupy one of the non-Boston seats.

3. Boston should dominate one district, and its suburbs should dominate three.

4. Towns should not be split except when absolutely necessary.

5. Parochial concerns should be addressed whenever possible.

And here's my map:

BostonPatriot :: Massachusetts Court-Style Map
MA-01: 60.9% D
Incumbent: Richard Neal (D-Springfield)

A true Western Mass seat will include all of Berkshire County, the cities of Greenfield, Northampton, and Amherst, as well as Springfield and its suburbs. The population of Western Mass is just a little too high for all of that, so the suburban towns of Ludlow and Wilbraham have to go elsewhere. (Overall, the population of four western counties is 97,000 over the CD threshold, which screws things up quite a bit elsewhere. If the west had lost an extra hundred thousand people the COI lines would be much nicer.)

Anyway, this district is very liberal, and Richard Neal should be fine here.

MA-02: 57.1% R
Incumbent: Jim McGovern (D-Worcester)

Central Mass and Worcester County are co-terminous, and ideally we'd be able to put all but the easternmost part of the county in the 2nd district. But the extra 97K people from Western Mass have to be included here, which forces the CMass district to drop the eastern half of the Blackstone Valley as well as the Boroughs area. The district includes Worcester and all its suburbs; the cities of Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner; the woodsy areas north and west of Worcester, and half of the Blackstone Valley. Martha Coakley only won two towns in this district. McGovern would be in for a real race.

Let's skip the 3rd for now.

MA-04: 52.0% R
No Incumbent

There's a few different ways to draw the southeast; I decided to treat it as two separate communities of interest. First, there's the Cape and Islands, and the Cranberry Country towns (inc. Plymouth) that are the most Cape-like of anything on the mainland. Then, there's the South Coast, dominated by the cities of Fall River and New Bedford. The district needed a little more population so I tacked on the Providence suburbs; an equally viable option would have been adding the city of Taunton, but this looked cleaner. This would be a tough uphill climb for any Republican, since the cities, the Islands, and the liberal half of the Cape drown out the Inner Cape and southern Plymouth County, which happen to be the most Republican parts of the state.

MA-05: 58.3% R
Incumbent: Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell)

The first question was whether to split the North Shore or the Merrimack Valley; I went with the former since I was trying to keep this seat as un-Boston as possible. The 5th centers on Lowell and Lawrence and the towns around them, and reaches to include the northern part of Essex County, which is quieter than the southern part. I-495 is the spinal cord of this seat, connecting the east to the west. There are some commuter towns included, like Wilmington and Billerica, but that's not a huge problem since the Merrimack Valley has more residents who work in Boston than the other three outlying regions.

This is a pretty good seat for a Republican looking to challenge Tsongas, as it's 4 points better than the old 5th. It's too bad that both Bruce Tarr and Richard Tisei live in the 6th.

MA-06: 52.3% R
Incumbents: John Tierney (D-Salem), Ed Markey (D-Malden)

This is a Metro-North seat consisting almost exclusively of bedroom towns, most of which are pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of state politics. (Note that it's about the same as the Cape seat in terms of PVI, but much less polarized.) The southern part of the district is gritty (Malden, Revere, Lynn), but the rest is pretty wealthy and moderate. I considered putting the fishing town of Gloucester in the 5th, but I kept it here because it's easier to access from this part of the state. I-93, I-95, Route 1, and 128 North tie this district together.

Woburn is split between this seat and the 7th for population reasons. It is the only municipality, besides Boston, that I split.

Politically, the southeastern part of the seat is very tough for any Republican, so Tisei would have a hard time getting the votes needed to beat Tierney (Markey would be off limits). He's probably happy that the Democrats didn't take my advice on the 6th. This configuration might even be trending away from the GOP.

MA-07: 61.6% D
Incumbent: Barney Frank (D-Newton)

This is the MetroWest seat, serviced by the Pike, 128, and Route 2 (three of the worst roads for traffic in the state). The towns get less urban as you move west, with a clear division between Newton/Watertown/Brookline/Cambridge, and the rest of the district, which is the real MetroWest. I'm not thrilled with the southern arm into Dedham and Norwood, but they had to go somewhere and this seat needed population.

This district has an entirely different political culture from the other two suburban seats, which is why Cambridge is tacked on here instead of somewhere else. These are the stereotypical Massachusetts liberals, the Elizabeth Warren donors, and with a few exceptions (Weston, Waltham, the southern arm), this seat is filled with latte-drinking, Whole Foods-shopping, Lexus-driving trial lawyers. It's a little bit of an exaggeration but not much.

MA-08: 73.9% D
Incumbent: Mike Capuano (D-Somerville)

The Hub. It's possible to keep Boston intact in one seat, but you'd have to split one of the suburban towns since there's no perfect combination to get you to the magic number. So once I realized I couldn't avoid splitting a town here, I decided it had to be Boston since it splits more naturally than anything else, and there's precedence for putting Southie and Dorchester with the southern suburbs. The rest of the city is here, along with Chelsea to maximize minority population, and Everett and Somerville because they fit population-wise. Capuano will be happy with that last part.

MA-09: 56.1% R
Incumbents: Stephen Lynch (D-Boston), Bill Keating (D-Quincy)

The Metro-South district (or the fifth province of Ireland, if you prefer). This one sort of drew itself, following I-93 and Route 3 south from Dorchester to Duxbury, which is generally the furthest south people commute from. This seat has its share of grit (Brockton, which doesn't fit anywhere), its middle-class, Catholic enclaves (Quincy, Weymouth, the Boston slice), and its wealthy towns on the South Shore.  All of it is just a bit more conservative than you'd expect, culturally as well as politically. Scott Brown raises a lot of money in this district.

Republicans are doing better here as of late but the local Democratic brand remains strong, as evidenced by Keating's strong showing in the north in 2010. The politics are about the same as Keating's old seat, putting it one the edge of in-play, and this figures to trend right over the decade.

MA-03: 58.6% R
No Incumbent

Here's that exurban leftovers seat I was talking about, formed out of parts of 6 of the 10 old districts. It's dominated by small cities like Framingham, Marlborough, Milford, Franklin, and Taunton, which are all connected by I-495, the road that marks the edge of Metro Boston. The 3rd starts in the north with the commercialized Route 9 corridor (the Boroughs and Framingham/Natick), which is the buffer region between Worcester and Boston. Further south there are the true exurbs of Boston and Providence, as well as the eastern Blackstone Valley, which didn't fit in the CMass seat.

This is the best district for the GOP on the map, as it probably has a low D+ PVI (52-53% Obama.) I'd expect Mitt Romney to win it next year if he's the nominee. Scott Brown lives here and got about 62% of the vote in 2010. Richard Ross (Brown's successor in the legislature) would be the obvious GOP pick, and with Framingham-Natick the only source of Dem strength here, he'd probably win.

There you go--have at it. I can already hear the grumblings in Woburn.

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Nice
I was kind of surprised to see you split the north shore and didn't have the Merrimack valley head further west.  I wonder which option would better benefit the GOP: keeping the Merrimack Valley or the North Shore wholly together.

FYI: I played around with DRA and you CAN create a Boston seat that doesn't split any towns with nearly perfect deviation: Boston+Chelsea+Somerville

Saint Paul (MN-4)  


BTW
I also love the ninth district.  Great COI and it's also the type of district the GOP has been improving in and I think will continue to improve in.  I've been to this area twice (I have an aunt and uncle who live in Quincy) and absolutely love it; it's definitely an area I'd consider moving to if I ever had to leave Saint Paul.

Saint Paul (MN-4)  

[ Parent ]
The Valley
hands down.

[ Parent ]
I Very Much Like This
Like you, I suspect, the only real "problem" district here is your 3rd, which I'm sure basically functions as a "leftovers" district, and probably can't be helped.

But this is certainly a much more "rational" way to put together a Mass. map, especially your 1st, 2nd, 5th and 9th.

One question: you say your version of the 6th is actually trending away from the MA GOP - what's your reason for saying this?

But, thanks for this.  


I worry that some of those towns may start going the way of the MetroWest
Places like Winchester, Stoneham, Woburn. They aren't as Catholic as the south suburbs, and they're getting wealthier as the MetroWest becomes even less affordable. The North Shore trended away from us for a couple decades (it used to be solidly R), and might be starting to come back now. Time will tell.

I looked at the Brown numbers and the only places he underperformed in this seat vis-a-vis McCain was in Malden, Medford, and Winchester--Coakley's home base. So maybe I jumped the gun on this one a little.


[ Parent ]
Nice
This is a nice map. There are a couple things I'd do differently myself:

I'd make W. Roxbury the part that's split off from the rest of Boston. It's way more suburban than Southie or East Dot.

Second, I'd make an inside 128 seat and keep the 5th and 6th more or less as they are now as a Merrmack Valley and NW Exurbs seat and a North Shore seat. That makes 3 a true Metrowest seat. Even though Western Norfolk County and the route 2 corridor are different politico-culturally they're still Metro West. Ditto with the northern suburbs between 128 and the Parkway (Rte. 16): they're diverse but still represent something of a coherent region in terms of urbanization and Boston-centric-ness. I suppose it's a judgement call and your way works pretty well too. I guess part of it depends on if you view the biggest divide as Boston vs. Non-Boston, or more pluralistically between the individual regions.

And, perhaps most importantly, Route 2 having heavy traffic? The part inside 128 is empty almost all the time! It's my favorite road to drive on around here.

R - MD-7


Good ideas
Your 128 idea would definitely work and would be a fair representation of the suburbs. I also like the West Roxbury idea--truth be told, I had kind of forgotten about it as a possibility since it's so inaccessible. Plus, being Irish, I couldn't resist linking South Boston with Quincy and Milton.

The term MetroWest is a little confusing in that it used to be everything in Middlesex and Norfolk west of the city, centered on Framingham (this is how Wikipedia). People still use it that way, but it's also come to mean specifically the Route 2 suburbs, many of which aren't in the original MetroWest. It might be time for the terms Northwest and Southwest to come into play, since there's a big difference between the towns north and south of Framingham.

And Route 2! The part I was referring to was the Concord Rotary, which I passed through daily for a summer. I hate that stretch.


[ Parent ]
Nice Map
I drew one that looks almost exactly like yours, except I only split Boston.  

Baker '14
R, MA-3


Not even going to post mine
This is great. I am a little meh about putting Dedham and Norwood in with Metro West, and I'm definitely meh about putting Natick in the 495 district, but it definitely looks cleaner.


Thanks so much
Based on my estimates, I drew a very similar COI map, but it had its differences. However, this clarifies some areas. Thanks for posting this!

I just posted my State House map. It's definitely not this clean ;).

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.
Sold on Bob Dold!


This is awesome.
U fortunately for the GOP, even with a court map like this, Lynch would still hold down one of our opportunity seats.

21, Male, Conservative Republican, TN-08 (home), VA-01 (college)

Not the worst thing in the world
He is the most acceptable of the Massachusetts Democrats, in my opinion.

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.
Sold on Bob Dold!


[ Parent ]
This is true.


21, Male, Conservative Republican, TN-08 (home), VA-01 (college)

[ Parent ]
Comrade Jim
Could McGovernment hold that seat? I would probably cry if we had a fair, Worcester County centric district to take on McGovern in, and we lost.

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.
Sold on Bob Dold!


First of all
We've asked you to stop with the comrade stuff.

Secondly, we'd need a candidate (Polito?) who is strong in the Worcester suburbs. McGovern crushed Lamb in the suburbs last year, even as Polito won then 2:1, and Jim McKenna got about 47% in the ones in McGovern's district (shockingly, he won all of the Worcester suburbs in Neal's district, and came within single-digits in the 2nd outright).

So my answer is I don't know. McGovern will never carry the Blackstone Valley; that area's at the point where it will vote for a competent R for anything. If you can run up the score in the Valley, beat him in the North County, win Leominster, and come within single digits in the suburbs, you can overcome the margin he'll rack up in the city.  


[ Parent ]
Sorry
Forgot about that.

Does he over-perform generic Ds in Worcester itself?

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.
Sold on Bob Dold!


[ Parent ]
Surprisingly, not by much
Obama got 68%  there in 2008, McGovern got 70% in 2010. The extra 2% is probably just because he's an Irish Catholic and Obama isn't. Patrick got 65% of the two-party in Worcester in a below-average statewide performance. (Brown's 47% in the city was unheard of, probably the result of having a major rally there 2 days before the election.)

The problem is in the suburbs, and I really don't get it. They came out so strongly for the rest of the GOP ticket in 2010, but Lamb did about 5 points worse than McCain in all of them. Maybe Lamb (who's from the other end of the district) was just a lousy candidate, and Polito (who's from Shrewsbury) or Evangelidis (Holden) would do better.


[ Parent ]
Marty Lamb
AFAIK, he ran a pretty clever and funny, albeit ultimately futile, campaign. He didn't seem like a particularly bad sacrificial lamb (I actually didn't realize the pun until I typed it...)

If Polito or Lew Evangelidis had run in 2010, could we have given McGovern a scare?

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.
Sold on Bob Dold!


[ Parent ]
Don't know
Polito won the district and Evangelidis won Worcester County, but they were both against weaker candidates than J Mac. It's kind of like wondering if the Cardinals would have beaten the Tigers if Detroit had won the ALCS.

[ Parent ]
Candidate recruitment
It just goes to show why candidate recruitment is so damn important.

I'm very, very excited about Tisei. Too bad we didn't get him to run in the 6th in 2010... what do you think his chances are in 2012?

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.
Sold on Bob Dold!


[ Parent ]
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